Now that the dust has settled on the P.K. Subban - Shea Weber trade, we can shift our focus towards a key, and often forgotten, element of analysis: video.
Statistics are such a vital element when it comes to evaluating a player's worth, but without concrete examples, the analysis tends to get lost in a sea of criticism. Statistical analysis is vital, and usually explains the result, not how the player got there. For this project, I decided to forget the numbers for a week or two, and take a long look at hours of Nashville Predators footage from 2015-16.
The goal is to give examples of what Weber excels at, where he struggles, and some of his tendencies that the Canadiens can either use to their advantage, or will need to adapt to.
Full disclosure: I did not watch every single Predators game in 2015-16. As of the time of publication, I've viewed roughly half their games from last season. It's not an ideal sample size, but it should give us a good idea of what to expect from Weber next season.
This is not meant to dispute the value of statistical analysis, nor compare Weber to Subban. It's simply what I've noticed throughout the project. I saw several examples of every play I am about to show you, however in the interest of saving bandwidth, I limited the footage to just one clip.
In this first installment we'll focus on his play in the offensive zone, which is frankly the easiest aspect of his game to evaluate.
Offensive zone prowess
As most defenders and goalies can attest, Weber has one of the heaviest shots in the league. Moreover, his ability to score isn't necessarily tied into his accuracy or timing; it's primarily fueled by pure power. In many cases, even when the goalie had plenty of time to adjust, Weber managed to power his way past their equipment. He also has the ability to get his slap shot off in a hurry. A quick and heavy shot is a nightmare for any NHL goaltender.
When he is given time to shoot on the power play, odds are he'll produce a goal or a juicy rebound. It's quite telegraphed as well. As soon as you saw Roman Josi and Weber switch on the point, you knew there was a cannonball coming your very shortly. Unless the puck hits the goalie, it'll end up in the back of the net more often than not. It reminds me a lot of how Sheldon Souray was used by the Habs on the power play. Predictable? Yes. Easy to stop? Absolutely not.
Interestingly, just the threat of his shot tends to drag defenders out of position, opening up the ice for Weber's teammates.
As evidenced in the clip below, once Weber establishes the threat of a shot, he draws the attention of two defenders, leaving James Neal in a perfect position to score an easy goal.
For Habs fans this could be quite interesting, and could lead to a big uptick in goals for Alex Galchenyuk. Essentially, Weber's mere presence gives his team a few options in the offensive zone. A 1-3-1 setup on the power play with Weber playing across from Galchenyuk is a very exciting prospect.
For example, take a look at how Filip Forsberg uses Weber's presence on the power play to draw defenders out of position.
A quick look to the point is enough to distract the penalty kill unit, and disrupt their positioning. That opens up passing and shooting lanes for the forwards. Teams are well aware of his heavy shot, which is something that Nashville clearly used to their advantage all year long.
And of course, he also opens up space for his defensive partner. Again, the threat of a shot is enough to create chaos for defenders. Weber is good at recognizing when he's pulled a defender towards him, which allows for a quick pass to an open target.
On occasion, he'll find a forward with a nifty pass from the point, although from games I watched, this isn't his favourite tool in his offensive toolbox.
As you can see, Weber is quite at home in the offensive zone. He makes simple plays, yet they're quite effective. This will be his greatest strength in a Habs uniform when it comes to driving offence. Unlike the player he was traded for, he doesn't do a great job at starting the play, but he's quite adept at finishing it.
He has the ability to activate on the rush, but once again, it's not something that happens very often.
That brings us to the end of Part I of the breakdown, and I think it's fair to say that there's enough evidence to suggest that Weber is an elite presence in the offensive zone. Not only does he possess a rocket of a shot, but he's quick to shift the puck to his teammates once he creates space. Teams know that if they let him take a shot, there's a very good chance to end up as a goal, which brings a chaotic element into the mix, one that the Habs absolutely need to take advantage of.
He should bolster Montreal's power play, and when you remember that Kirk Muller will be running the show next season, it bodes well for the Habs' special teams. Take a look at all his goals from 2015-16, and notice how many of them came on the power play.
I should note that Weber really prefers to let his defensive partner do the majority of the grunt work when it comes to driving offence. We'll delve into that aspect further next week, as we explore his defensive zone footage, which is frankly the most interesting aspect of Weber's play. Next week we will also compare the results of the video analysis to his statistics, to see if there's any correlation.
This is what happens when you stand in front of a Shea Weber shot. Tyson Barrie risks his life to attempt the block, Erik Johnson immediately regrets his decision, and Matt Duchene hits the brakes faster than he ever has previously in his career.